April 29, 2022

Third Sunday of Easter / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThis weekend, the Church again presents as its first reading for liturgy in the season of Easter a passage from the Acts of the Apostles.

The mere construction of Acts is a lesson.

A continuation of St. Luke’s Gospel, its underlying lesson is that the salvation achieved by the Lord Jesus did not end with the ascension. Nor did Jesus’ presence in the world end when he ascended back to heaven. The risen and ascended Lord lives and acts through the Church, a community of visible structure, with specific functions.

This reading reports a conflict between the Sanhedrin, led by the high priest, and the Apostles. The Sanhedrin was the ruling council of Judaism at the time of Jesus and the early Church. Its agenda was primarily religious, but its authority touched virtually every aspect of life. Again and important to note, St. Peter was the spokesman for all the Apostles. He was their leader.

Ordered to stop preaching about Jesus, the Apostles boldly reaffirmed their intention to continue. No earthly power could deflect them from fulfilling their commission from the Lord. As was the case in earlier weekends, Peter offered here a capsulized story of the life and mission of Christ.

The Book of Revelation is the source of the second reading. Probably no other book of the New Testament, and few in the Old Testament, perennially leaves readers wondering as does Revelation.

(Revelation is not the more ancient, nor literarily best, term. The older and better term is Apocalypse; however, most English-speaking biblical scholars have adopted the better-known name of Revelation.)

Revelation is clear. It refers to Jesus as the sinless lamb of God, the title used by John the Baptist for the Lord, an overpowering reference to the fact that Christians stand with one foot on Earth, the other in heaven, for they stand in and with Christ, the Son of God and son of Mary, a woman.

St. John’s Gospel supplies the last reading. It is a resurrection narrative, wondrous and consoling. Jesus, risen from death, appeared to the Apostles as, without luck, they were fishing on the Sea of Galilee. At dawn, recalling the time of the resurrection, Jesus came into their midst. He told them exactly where to cast their nets. They obeyed, and a huge catch resulted. The beloved disciple recognized Jesus, but Peter is central to the story. He rushed to the risen Lord.

Then, at a meal, Jesus asked Peter if Peter loved him. It was a question put to Peter three times with three affirmative responses. In ancient Jewish symbolism, three represented what was complete, final and absolute. After each answer, Jesus commissioned to Peter to love the Good Shepherd’s flock as if it were Peter’s own flock.

The commission is exact, final and unqualified. It sent Peter to continue the Lord’s work.


It would be difficult to find three readings from the New Testament that individually are so beautiful and expressive, and that together teach such a marvelous lesson.

Setting the stage is the reading from Revelation. Disciples live with one foot on Earth, but the other in heaven, and nowhere else is this reality better seen than in the Eucharist.

The very combination of Acts with Luke’s Gospel reminds us that the salvation accomplished by Christ still lives. It was with the early Christians gathered around the Apostles. It is with us still in the Apostle’s successors in the Church.

The trial before the Sanhedrin reminds us that Peter’s fervor beside the sea, as Peter saw Jesus risen from the dead, never ended. After the betrayal, Peter changed. Forgiven by Christ, Peter was strong and confident. We can rely upon his testimony and his guidance. †

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